Telegrams may have gone the way of the steam engine, but there are number of places around the world, from Japan to Mexico, still sending them.
The news about India shuttering its 162-year-old telegram service sounded like the last, labored puff of a country making progress into a bold new era.
So I wondered where people are still using them as a swift, inexpensive means to send condolences and well wishes on important occasions. (An outfit called – what else? – iTelegram took over from Western Union for the U.S., though I can’t remember ever sending or receiving a telegram here.)
The information on the map is from Wikipedia and done quickly with Fusion Tables and Google Map; roll over the marker for notes about each country. Take it with grain of salt – there’s nothing in Africa or South America, for example – and help me update it if you can.
I know from personal experience that Italians, for instance, still send telegrams – it’s the done thing for deaths, when you can’t make it to the big, fat wedding and a way to greet newborns before the baptism takes place.
Telegrams survive in Italy because the postal system has such a dismal reputation. In the end, you pay extra for that same postal system to deliver your message on a specific day.
However, you don’t use an actual telegraph or Telex machine: you phone up Poste Italiane or use the internet to send your message so it will be printed and delivered to your loved ones in a timely fashion. (Well, almost. The site promises “same-day delivery for 90% of telegrams accepted by 12 noon on a working day and sent to provincial capitals or towns and cities of over 50,000 inhabitants. In all other cases, telegrams will be delivered by the end of the working day following the date of acceptance.”)
Anyway, that sounds a lot like all of those app-to-snail mail services that we all think are so, you know, new and cool.